Reflecting on the 2018 Sundance Film Festival

At Dropbox, we talk a lot about creative energy—that daily fuel that makes it easy to stay in the flow, where work doesn’t feel like work. It’s something we saw every day at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, coming through in the passion of first-time directors or the infectious spirit of ensemble casts. And with 62% of festival films using Dropbox during the creative and collaborative process, we were proud to be a sponsor for this year’s event. Here are some of the most striking examples of the creative energy we saw at the festival—and how each can resonate beyond the world of cinema.

Collaborative energy

At the festival, dozens of actors, screenwriters, and directors visited the IndieWire Studio, presented by Dropbox. Here, they shared their biggest filmmaking challenges—whether it was selling the initial idea, finding vulnerability in a personal story, or learning to admit mistakes. Over and over, the studio guests came back to the power of collaboration. Take Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan in the clip above, who passed drafts back and forth for three years before finally producing the finished script for Wildlife.

Resourceful energy

Slate journalists at a podcast recording

In a special live recording of two Slate podcasts—sponsored by Dropbox—Slate’s journalists dove into their creative processes. How do they get motivated to write new stories, day after day, and what do they do to connect with readers? Film critic Dana Stevens argued that you only need to see as far ahead as your headlights, even if you can’t see the rest of the road. Critic-at-large Stephen Metcalf described burrowing underground—without the reader—only to emerge later with something that will surprise your audience. All in all, it was a remarkable lesson on resourcefulness and overcoming creative blockers, whether in writing, brainstorming, or problem solving.

Human energy

Panelists at "Power of Story: Culture Shift"

Humanity played a big role in two “Power of Story” panels, both presented by Dropbox. The first explored the shifting culture of film; the second examined what it takes to go from indie filmmaking to big-budget Hollywood directing. During each event, the panelists stressed the importance of remaining a human being throughout the process. If you want movies to properly represent culture, lean on your own human stories—not the conventional wisdom of the industry. If you find yourself directing a massive studio blockbuster, don’t forget where you came from, and remember who you are at heart. Being human is ultimately what helped the panelists create and collaborate as a team.

Activist energy

Chloe Grace Moretz at the IndieWire Studio presented by Dropbox
Chloe Grace Moretz at the IndieWire Studio presented by Dropbox

With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements gaining momentum, along with strong turnout for the Women’s March in downtown Park City, the 2018 Sundance Film Festival had a distinctly activist vibe. Particularly notable was The Miseducation of Cameron Post—a story about a teen forced to attend a gay conversion center—which went on to win the U.S. Grand Jury Prize. The film’s leading lady, Chloe Grace Moretz, dedicated the award to LGBTQ survivors of sexual conversion therapy. The film was also among the 38% at the festival directed by women—an all-time high.

Audience energy

Photo by Stephen Speckman
Photo by Stephen Speckman

Dropbox was proud to sponsor the festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition Audience Award—a category that featured a diverse range of cultures and stories from around the globe. Congratulations to The Guilty for taking home the prize. Set at an emergency dispatch center in Copenhagen, the tense, intimate thriller was shot entirely from a single room. Director Gustav Möller relied on audio and the viewers’ own imaginations to supply the suspense. “It’s very special to get this award. The idea of the film is it would be created by the audience,” he said. Gustav reminds us that creative endeavors are often communal by nature, and where customers can play just as big of a role.

Risk-taking energy

During the festival, we were delighted to be involved with the collaborative concert event, “Common and Friends” at the Wanderluxxe house. Before he went on stage, we had a chance to catch up with recording artist and actor. In the clip above, Common describes using Dropbox to swap recordings with other creators, and how often he finds inspiration where he wouldn’t expect it. “Be open to collaborating with people who you might not think you can mix with,” he said. Sometimes the best creative work happens when you don’t play by the rules.

Independent energy

Gabourey Sidibe at the IndieWire Studio presented by Dropbox
Gabourey Sidibe at the IndieWire Studio presented by Dropbox

More than anything else, we saw independent energy at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival: the freedom to tell bold stories, to take risks, to try something different. It’s a theme we’ve seen over and over in Dropbox users, whether they’re filmmakers, medical researchers, or space explorers—teams bringing their unique blend of passion to make their mark or solve seemingly impossible problems. We’re proud to help independent-minded teams like these unleash their creative energy. Let’s keep it flowing.

More from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival